nep-hpe New Economics Papers
on History and Philosophy of Economics
Issue of 2009‒02‒07
nine papers chosen by
Erik Thomson
University of Manitoba

  1. Welfare Reform, 1834 By Clark, Gregory; Page, Marianne
  2. The Austrian School on Happiness and Relational Goods By Antonio Magliulo
  3. Non-cooperative Game Theory By Bonanno, Giacomo
  4. The New Development Economics: We Shall Experiment, but How Shall We Learn? By Rodrik, Dani
  5. How to generalize Darwinism suitably to help understand both the evolution and the development of economies By Pavel Pelikan
  6. The Specialist in Today’s University of Wisconsin--Extension By Deller, Steven; Preissing, John
  7. A Theory of the Corrupt Keynesian By Aidt, T.S.; Dutta, J.
  8. Policymaking for Posterity By Summers, Lawrence; Zeckhauser, Richard
  9. Communication and Learning By Anderlini, Luca; Gerardi, Dino; Lagunoff, Roger

  1. By: Clark, Gregory (U of California, Davis); Page, Marianne (U of California, Davis)
    Abstract: The English Old Poor Law, which before 1834 provided welfare to the elderly, children, the improvident, and the unfortunate, was a bete noire of the new discipline of Political Economy. Smith, Bentham, Malthus and Ricardo all demanded its abolition. The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, drafted by Political Economists, cut payments sharply. Because local rules on eligibility and provision varied greatly before the 1834 reform, we can estimate the social cost of the extensive welfare provision of the Old Poor Law. Surprisingly there is no evidence of any of the alleged social costs that prompted the harsh treatment of the poor after 1834. Political economy, it seems, was born in sin.
    Date: 2008–10
  2. By: Antonio Magliulo (Università degli Studi di Firenze, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche)
    Abstract: Austrian economists do not directly face the problem of the relationships between economics and happiness. They even rather rarely use the word happiness and do not bother to define the philosophical meaning of it referring to Aristotle or to the Enlightenment. They prefer to speak of human welfare: a comprehensive welfare, not limited to the satisfaction of material needs. The problem that they directly face is whether and in what sense non-instrumental human relationships (that is relational goods) can be considered and dealt with as economic goods increasing human welfare. In this way, they indirectly explore the theme of the relationships between economics and happiness.
    Keywords: Austrian School, Economics and Happiness, Well-Being, Relational Goods
    JEL: B13 D60
    Date: 2008
  3. By: Bonanno, Giacomo (U of California, Davis)
    Abstract: This is the first draft of the entry “Game Theory” to appear in the Sage Handbook of the Philosophy of Social Science (edited by Ian Jarvie & Jesús Zamora Bonilla), Part III, Chapter 16.
    Date: 2008–08
  4. By: Rodrik, Dani (Harvard U)
    Abstract: Development economics is split between macro-development economists--who focus on economic growth, international trade, and fiscal/macro policies--and micro-development economists--who study microfinance, education, health, and other social programs. Recently there has been substantial convergence in the policy mindset exhibited by micro evaluation enthusiasts, on the one hand, and growth diagnosticians, on the other. At the same time, the randomized evaluation revolution has led to an accentuation of the methodological divergence between the two camps. Overcoming the split requires changes on both sides. Macro-development economists need to recognize the distinct advantages of the experimental approach and adopt the policy mindset of the randomized evaluation enthusiasts. Micro-development economists, for their part, have to recognize that the utility of randomized evaluations is restricted by the narrow and limited scope of their application. As the Chinese example illustrates, extending the experimental mindset to the domain of economy-wide reforms is not just possible, it has already been practiced with resounding success in the most important development experience of our generation.
    Date: 2008–10
  5. By: Pavel Pelikan
    Abstract: This paper agrees that a suitably generalized Darwinism may help understand socioeconomic change, but finds the most publicized generalization by Hodgson and Knudsen unsuitable. To do better, it generalizes the extension of Neo-Darwinism into evolutionary developmental biology ("evo-devo"), which pays more attention to genomes-as-instructors than to genes-as-replicators, and to the entire process of instructed development than to fully developed organisms. The new generalization has clear connections to economics with a minimum guarantee of helpfulness: it generalizes both evo-devo and previously elaborated approaches that already helped understand specific issues of comparative economics, economic reforms, and transformation policies
    Keywords: evolution of instructions, instructed development of interactors, multilevel evolution and development, evolution of institutional rules, development of economies Length 36 pages
    JEL: A10 D02 K10 O10 P50 Z10
    Date: 2009–01
  6. By: Deller, Steven (U of Wisconsin, Madison/Extension); Preissing, John (U of Wisconsin, Extension)
    Abstract: As part of a comprehensive strategic planning effort undertaken by the University of Wisconsin-Extension, Cooperative Extension Service (UWEX-CES), a web-based survey of state specialists was undertaken in the fall of 2007. This manuscript represents the “reporting-out” of the survey results. Based on the work of the strategic planning committee this survey covers a range of issues, but focuses on the role of the specialist in today’s UW-Extension as well as the notion of scholarship. Specialists in general reported that they felt comfortable in their own roles but expressed concern that non-Extension colleagues lacked an appreciation for Extension work and notions of scholarship. While specialists general enjoy wearing numerous “hats” they expressed concern that an increasingly smaller resource pool is pulling them in too many different directions. Specialists strongly subscribe to the idea that Extension educational programming is research based and that research must stand the test of peer review. There is disagreement, however, on what constitutes peer review. Many specialists have the opinion that publishing their work in appropriate scholarly journals is the standard barer of peer review while others disagree. Many noted in written and verbal comments, however, because of the wide heterogeneity of specialists it is difficult if not dangerous to talk about the “representative” specialist. Yet, the survey results suggest that on a range of issues, the specialists are generally in agreement.
    Date: 2008–01
  7. By: Aidt, T.S.; Dutta, J.
    Abstract: We evaluate the impact of real business cycle shocks on corruption and economic policy in a model of entry regulation in a representative democracy. We .nd that corruption is procyclical and regulation policy is counter-cyclical. Corrupt politicians engage in excessive stabilization of aggregate fluctuations and behave as if they were Keynesian. We also find that business cycle shocks can induce political instability with politicians losing office in recessions.
    Keywords: Corruption; entry regulation; performance voting; business cycles.
    JEL: D72 K42 O41
    Date: 2008–12
  8. By: Summers, Lawrence (Harvard U); Zeckhauser, Richard (Harvard U)
    Abstract: Policymaking for posterity involves current decisions with distant consequences. Contrary to conventional prescriptions, we conclude that the greater wealth of future generations may strengthen the case for preserving environmental amenities; lower discount rates should be applied to the far future, and special effort should be made to avoid actions that impose costs on future generations. Posterity brings great uncertainties. Even massive losses, such as human extinction, however, do not merit infinite negative utility. Given learning, greater uncertainties about damages could increase or decrease the optimal level of current mitigation activities. Policies for posterity should anticipate effects on: alternative investments, both public and private; the actions of other nations; and the behaviors of future generations. Such effects may surprise. This analysis blends traditional public finance and behavioral economics with a number of hypothetical choice problems.
    JEL: D64 D81 D90 Q54
    Date: 2008–08
  9. By: Anderlini, Luca (Georgetown U); Gerardi, Dino (Yale U); Lagunoff, Roger (Georgetown U)
    Abstract: We study the intergenerational accumulation of knowledge in an infinite-horizon model of communication. Each in a sequence of players receives an informative but imperfect signal of the once-and-for-all realization of an unobserved state. The state affects all players' preferences over present and future decisions. Each player observes his own signal but does not directly observe the realized signals or actions of his predecessors. Instead, he must rely on cheap-talk messages from the previous players to fathom the past. Each player is therefore both a receiver of information with respect to his decision, and a sender with respect to all future decisions. Senders' preferences are misaligned with those of future decision makers. We ask whether there exist "full learning'' equilibria -- ones in which the players' posterior beliefs eventually place full weight on the true state. We show that, regardless of how small the misalignment in preferences is, such equilibria do not exist. This is so both in the case of private communication in which each player only hears the message of his immediate predecessor, and in the case of public communication, in which each player hears the message of all previous players. Surprisingly, in the latter case full learning may be impossible even in the limit as all players become infinitely patient. We also consider the case where all players have access to a mediator who can work across time periods arbitrarily far apart. In this case full learning equilibria exist.
    JEL: C70
    Date: 2008–02

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